Moments That Stay

August 5, 2013 in moonrise31, oneshots by moonrise31

Happy sixth. Here, have some words. They’re inadequate, but I gave it my best shot anyway.

“Unnie, pull over please.”

“What? Why?” Sooyoung demanded.

Seohyun stared pointedly at the other girl’s knuckles, which were pale and tight from clenching the steering wheel.

“Fine,” Sooyoung relented, and parked the car on the side of the deserted road. Her back hit the seat with a resigned thump, and she let out a loud exhale. “There. Happy?”

The passenger door swung open and Seohyun hopped out. “The fresh air is nice.”

“Alright, alright, coming,” Sooyoung grumbled, stepping onto the asphalt below. The gravel crunched under her feet as she rounded the front of the car to join Seohyun on the other side. “Just for a bit, though. We’re on a tight schedule.”

“No, we aren’t,” Seohyun replied, the bluntness of her statement causing Sooyoung to whip her head around around and stare at the younger girl. “It’s not like there’s someone chasing us, unnie.”

Sooyoung snorted, not meeting Seohyun’s gaze. “I know. It’s just—I need—I’m—”

“Running away?” Seohyun finished, and noted the hurt flashing across Sooyoung’s face for the briefest of moments. She felt something clench inside, but she made herself wait a few precious seconds before adding, “A little running never hurt anybody.”

Sooyoung nodded, and it seemed that the words had left her for the first time Seohyun could remember. The younger girl pulled the other into a one-armed hug because, Seohyun figured, if Sooyoung couldn’t find anything to talk about, then there wasn’t really anything that could be said.

“Are we here?”

The two turned around, and a pair of sleepy eyes blinked at them through the half-open backseat window. Jessica covered a yawn with one hand. “Is that a ‘yes’?”

“Does this look like Seoul to you?” was Sooyoung’s answer, and Jessica only shrugged, registering the tree line and the fluffy white clouds above before promptly forgetting about them, as barely awake brains struggling to stay alert often do.

With some effort, she lifted the latch to the car door and joined the other two outside moments later, lifting her arms in a lazy stretch. Sooyoung’s reply hit her just then, and she shook her head in an attempt to snap out of her sleepy haze. “Oh, is that where we’re going?”

Sooyoung realized with a start that she hadn’t given her friends much explanation when they’d both showed up at her apartment a couple of hours earlier, responding to her texted distress call. As soon as they had arrived, they had piled into the car and she’d stepped on the gas, her passengers clueless as to where they were headed or why it mattered.

“It’s just a job, unnie.”

Except Seohyun had already figured it out, smart girl that she was. Or maybe, Sooyoung mused, Seohyun had picked out the problem from the slew of words she’d been muttering as they barreled down the road to Seoul.

“You didn’t even like it,” Jessica pointed out, leaning against the car as she retrieved her phone from her back pocket. “I never figured you for an office worker, anyway.”

“But at least it was something,” Sooyoung burst, bringing her hands to her head and tugging at fistfuls of hair in her frustration. “I went through all the trouble of graduating and getting an internship and finally a job, and now I haven’t got a thing to show for it.”

She felt Seohyun’s grip on her arm tighten. “There are lots of places you can go with a business degree, unnie. It’s not like you have to start over.”

“And even if you did,” Jessica added without looking up from her phone, “It’s not like you wouldn’t make it in the end. We all know that much, at least.”

The silence that followed this time was much more comfortable, and Sooyoung was already feeling lighter as her friends’ warm words filled her from head to toe. But the corners of her lips were still weighed down, even when she looked up and saw how clear the sky was and how purposeful the birds flying across it seemed to be, as if they knew exactly where they were going.

“Even the birds are headed to Seoul,” Seohyun said.

“Yeah.” Sooyoung nodded. “Can we follow them?”

Jessica finished her text and raised her hand. “I call shotgun.”

Airports are always busy, and Gimpo was no exception. Although it seemed that especially on this day, there were more people jostling to get to more places with more pieces of luggage than Tiffany had ever seen.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

It was just her luck that not one piece in the overabundance of suitcases arriving happened to be hers.

“They’ll send it to you when they find it,” Sunny reminded her, throwing an arm around her shoulder as they turned from the apologetic employee manning the kiosk for lost luggage. “At least you don’t have anything to pull around now, right?”

“Ha ha. Great,” Tiffany muttered. “My first visit back to Korea after who-knows-how-long, and I’m stuck in the same clothes I left Los Angeles in.”

“You’re dressed well enough,” Sunny observed briskly as she steered the other woman away from the baggage claim. “And you can borrow some of my tops in the meantime.” She squinted at Tiffany’s legs critically. “Skirts and maybe shorts should also be fine. Just no pants.”

Tiffany couldn’t resist a chuckle. “The length difference is too much, isn’t it?” she teased, and received a stuck-out tongue in response. Her grin widened. “It’s okay. An excuse to go shopping, right?”

Sunny nodded. “Right.” She grabbed Tiffany’s hand. “Now let’s get out of here.”

“Um, the taxis are that way,” Tiffany said, looking behind them as Sunny dragged her in the opposite direction.

“I came here in a taxi, so we’re definitely not leaving in one,” Sunny replied matter-of-factly as she pulled Tiffany down a flight of stairs.

“Sunny, I just flew for fourteen straight hours. I haven’t showered or eaten or even fixed my makeup. I don’t have time for this.” Sunny ignored her protests, so Tiffany settled for rolling her eyes and taking a look around. Noting the signs filled with familiar-yet-foreign-looking Korean but thankfully understandable pictures, and beyond those to the workers bustling around the belly of the airport, she glared at the back of Sunny’s head. “Hey, don’t tell me you’re gonna hop into a private jet or something.”

“Don’t be silly,” Sunny scoffed as they stepped onto the airstrip, and Tiffany wondered how they hadn’t been spared a single second glance the entire time. Although she supposed the airport employees were probably used to their boss’s daughter manhandling random friends through the hangars by now. “Private jets are expensive.”

Tiffany gaped at the aircraft they’d stopped in front of. “Says the girl who apparently wants to fly a helicopter.”

“Much more practical, right?” Sunny said as she opened the door, perhaps choosing to ignore Tiffany’s disbelieving tone. She tossed the speechless woman a pair of headphones and pulled on a pair of aviator goggles. “You coming?”

“Apparently so,” Tiffany muttered as she settled into the seat beside Sunny and buckled herself in. “Does the hotel have valet parking for this sort of thing?”

Sunny grinned and turned the engine on, the blades of the helicopter picking up speed as they whipped around and around, cracking the air with every rotation. “I’ll park this myself, thanks,” she shouted over the roar.

Tiffany felt a scream lodge in her throat as they began to ascend, and she wasn’t sure if she’d actually been able to vocalize it or if she was the only one hearing herself panic.

“Relax,” Sunny yelled. “This is pretty amazing, right?”

“Are you serious—” Tiffany paused to gulp a breath of air, but found it taken away again when she suddenly realized that the entire city of Seoul was spread out below her. Barring the tallest skyscrapers, she now had the vantage point above the rush, watching miniscule cars speed along thread-width streets and tiny pinpricks of people bob along as they made their way through the metropolis.

“Yeah, I know,” Sunny agreed in response to Tiffany’s silent awe, a tinge of smugness in her voice. “You’re welcome.”

“Okay, you’re right,” Tiffany gave in, unable to hold back a smile. “This is pretty awesome. But I’m still confused on how you’re gonna land this thing at the hotel.”

Sunny let the helicopter dip a little lower. “One thing at a time. First, we need to get to the hotel.”

“Wait.” Tiffany felt some of her initial anxiety creeping back. “You mean…you don’t know how to get there?”

“Not really,” Sunny answered mildly as she squinted at the roads below. “The street signs are a little hard to read from here.”

“You can’t be serious,” Tiffany groaned, covering her face with her hands.

“No worries,” Sunny assured nonchalantly. “I’ll just find a nice rooftop to land on and we’ll be good to go.” She paused. “First time doing this, so let’s hope it’s exactly like the flight simulators I’ve been playing.”

Tiffany gaped at her for a few seconds. “Hold on. You mean…you haven’t even…is this legal?” She finally choked out.

“Good thing the police don’t think of patrolling the airspace,” was all Sunny had to say.

Tiffany sunk deep into her seat and squeezed her eyes shut, whispering her next words as if they were a prayer and feeling the slightest sense of déjà vu as she did so.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

Bang.

Taeyeon winced slightly as her knock on the locker door echoed throughout the empty hallways. “Whoops,” she whispered softly. “Didn’t mean for it to be that loud.”

“It’s alright,” a voice replied from behind her. “There’s no one around to complain about it, anyway.”

She spun around and found herself face-to-face with a woman dressed in a custodian’s one-piece, dull blue uniform. The top half had been shed and was now loosely tied around the woman’s waist, the nametag unpinned from its usual spot on the lapel and settled on the left hip pocket instead: “KIM HYOYEON”.

“Oh, sorry.” Taeyeon immediately bowed. “Am I trespassing?”

Hyoyeon shrugged. “The door’s open, isn’t it? And I guess that might be my fault, actually, for forgetting to lock it.” She scratched her head. “Either way, it’s all good, um…”

“Taeyeon.” She grinned. “And thanks.”

“No problem. I am, however,” Hyoyeon continued, narrowing her gaze at Taeyeon and stroking her chin thoughtfully, “still conflicted as to whether you’re too young or too old to be a high school student.”

“I get that a lot,” Taeyeon chuckled. “I graduated from here seven years ago.”

“Ah. That makes us…” Hyoyeon did the math in her head, “the same age, then.” She nodded and leaned her mop against the locker bank. “So, Taeyeon-ssi, what brings you here on this fine day?”

Taeyeon reached out, running her finger along the cool metal beside them. “Trying to find inspiration. My writing’s hit a block for the longest time and it’s incredibly annoying.”

“Writer, huh?” Hyoyeon raised her eyebrows and stretched to get a kink out of her back. “That’s pretty cool.”

“Try telling that to my parents.” The words were out before she could stop them. Taeyeon puffed out her cheeks in annoyance, realizing suddenly that she hadn’t really talked to anyone since she had entered her slump. I guess holing yourself away from people for a couple of weeks makes you wanna open up to complete strangers. But she’d already started and Hyoyeon seemed nice enough, or at least willing to listen, so she kept going. “They’re always scolding me for trying to make a living this way. It’s worked alright so far, but now…I’m sure they’d tell me to quit and get a ‘real’ job or something.”

“Hey, don’t be down.” Hyoyeon lifted a hand and gave Taeyeon a warm pat on the shoulder. “We all have bad days, bad weeks, bad years—whatever. It’ll end soon enough, I’m sure. And if they won’t get off your back, just remind them that at least you aren’t a janitor.”

Taeyeon was so surprised by the other’s bluntness that she couldn’t stop herself from stammering. “What? I—I’m sure that—janitors—important—sanitation—I mean—that is to say—”

Hyoyeon doubled over and brought her hands together, each clap resonating in the hallway, her laughter punctuating every space of silence in between. Taeyeon felt her face heat up in the meantime, her embarrassment leaving her speechless. She could only wait until the other caught her breath again and found it safe to speak once more. “Relax. I won’t say it if I’m offended by it.” Hyoyeon beamed. “And I’m happy. Which is sort of hard to believe, I bet.”

“I believe you,” Taeyeon said sincerely. She paused, hesitant, before adding, “I’m curious, though.”

Hyoyeon cheerfully gave some further explanation. “My life is more than scraping the gum off desks and wiping up the mud kids track in every morning, you know. I like to dance, too. I guess you can say that it’s my passion? But I can’t get paid for that sort of thing, so I’ve got to find another way. And someone’s got to do all this cleaning stuff, yeah? I don’t mind, so why not? I dance during the day and come in to clean the school when classes end. Not a bad deal, if you ask me. So yeah, I’m happy.”

Taeyeon considered the explanation. “I guess we’re kind of similar, aren’t we? It’s hard to support yourself by just writing, or just dancing.”

“That’s one way of looking at it.” Hyoyeon shrugged.

“So what you’re saying is,” Taeyeon continued with a smirk, “you’re trying to recruit me as a custodian.”

Hyoyeon laughed again and patted the other on the back. “Hey, invite’s open. And let me tell you—work isn’t work all the time, so there’s a plus.”

“Oh yeah?” Taeyeon raised her eyebrows. “How so?”

“Allow me to demonstrate.” Hyoyeon spun around with a flourish and bounded to the other side of the hallway, where a boom box was sitting quietly on the floor. She hit the power button and a beat blasted from the speakers. She danced her way back to Taeyeon, her outrageous movements bringing a smile to the latter’s face. Hyoyeon grinned and started a wave with one arm, the fluid movement traveling through her shoulders and ending with her other hand held out expectantly. “Let me have this dance?”

Taeyeon chuckled, shaking her head. “No thanks. My dancing’s horrible, seriously.”

“Does it look like I’m being serious?” Hyoyeon grabbed her arm and dragged her forward a couple of steps before body-rolling to the beat. “We’re not on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ here. Just have fun!”

Before she knew it, Taeyeon had found her groove, hips swaying and head bobbing with not a care for how awkward she was sure she looked, because Hyoyeon had grabbed the mop and was sweeping in perfect rhythm, pausing ever so often to use it as the microphone she lip-synced into or the dance partner she literally threw around with wild abandon. Taeyeon hadn’t felt so alive in a long time, and certainly not since the draft she was working on had sputtered to a stop at a dead end. But that didn’t matter right now, not with Hyoyeon and the mop and the music pulling her into the moment.

Three minutes later, the song ended and the two collapsed against the locker bank, breathing heavy and the tile beneath their feet gleaming like never before. Taeyeon turned to the grinning woman next to her and said, “Now this is happiness.”

Hyoyeon gave her a high-five. “Glad you agree.”

A tone sounded, and Taeyeon pulled out her phone and blinked at the text on the screen. Hyoyeon was looking the other way, out the window at the opposite end of the hall. “Hey, do you hear that? That noise…it’s almost like a helicopter.”

“How much energy can that kid possibly have left?” Yuri slouched on the park bench and exhaled, blowing her hair out of her eyes.

“Plenty to spare, if you ask me,” Yoona answered wryly as she plopped down next to her. The two women watched as the toddler they were babysitting waddled toward them, a ball clasped against his belly by two chubby arms. “I’m seriously worn out right now, but Kyungsan hasn’t even broken a sweat.”

“So much for invincible youth, huh?” Yuri chuckled and leaned down to receive the ball, cooing at the boy as she did so. “Hello, baby. Want me to throw it again?”

“Again, again!” Kyungsan waved his hands, delighted when Yuri tossed the ball a few meters away from them.

Yoona watched as the toddler ran after the toy, unconsciously smiling at the sight. “What a way to spend a Friday night, huh?”

“What, you don’t like our company?” Yuri teased, poking her friend’s cheek even as she kept one eye on Kyungsan. “You go off by yourself and find someone willing to hit the mall or bounce around the clubs with you, then.”

Yoona turned her head and stuck out her tongue. “I never said I didn’t want to be here, did I? Gee, unnie; you’re really too much.”

Yuri opened her mouth to reply, but Kyungsan’s voice cut her off. “Copter! Copter! Yul-unnie, Yoong-unnie! Copter!” The ball lay forgotten in the grass, the boy looking up at the clouds and waving his arms excitedly.

“Wow, that’s cool, isn’t it, Kyungsan?” Yuri walked over and knelt next to the child, who now had one hand in his mouth while the other pointed and traced the helicopter’s path across the sky.

Yoona joined them, crouching down so she was at Kyungsan’s eye level. “Hey, should we follow it?”

“Tag! Tag!” With Kyungsan’s approval, the three dashed off across the park, chasing after the renegade aircraft now flying dangerously close to the tall buildings of the city’s center.

“It’s not going to crash, is it?” Yoona asked in a low voice as she picked Kyungsan up and sat him on her shoulders. The boy squealed happily as he became that much closer to his newest object of interest.

“I have no idea,” Yuri replied, squinting as the helicopter disappeared from view. “Did it land over there?”

“Only one way to find out.” Yoona grinned. “Race you!”

The two women ran down the block, just fast enough so that Kyungsan could safely keep his perch but still feel the rush of wind in his face. The boy’s grip around the top of Yoona’s head tightened. “Faster! Faster!”

A few minutes later, they finally arrived at the gates of a high school, panting slightly from their Kyungsan-driven run. Yuri pointed at the two-bladed aircraft sitting on top of the roof. “Well, look at that.”

“The door’s open.” Yoona walked up the front steps of the school and peeked inside. “Oh!” She bowed slightly as Kyungsan waved from her shoulders. “Hello, everyone!”

Yuri caught up to her and held in an exclamation of surprise when she realized that there were seven other women gathered in the lobby of the building. “I’m sorry; are we interrupting something?”

“Only the weirdest ‘it’s a small world after all’ moment in history,” A tall, thin girl answered, flashing them a welcoming grin. “Hi, I’m Sooyoung!”

An explosion of introductions followed, and Yoona felt a little lost afterwards. Most of them were her elders, except for Seohyun, who had apparently come to Seoul with Jessica and Sooyoung on some sort of whim or another. They ended up visiting the latter two’s old high school, where Taeyeon was also their former classmate. Hyoyeon was a current custodian at the school, and Sunny had been the one driving the helicopter haphazardly across the city with Tiffany as her terrified passenger. Yoona’s head spun as the conversations buzzed around her, and she hardly noticed Yuri gently taking Kyungsan into her own arms.

“You see, the problem is that Sunny’s the daughter of this big airport exec, so she thinks that gives her the right to bring her video games to life.”

“Unnie, I apologize for being so forward since we’ve just met, but that is something really dangerous that you shouldn’t do.”

“Don’t worry, Fany tends to exaggerate things—ow! But tell you what: I’ll get a real helicopter pilot to drive it back, okay? And oh my gosh—he’s so cute!”

“Yoong and I are looking after him while his parents are out. Hey, Kyungsan-ah. Say hi to Sunny-unnie for me?”

“Sica, I didn’t know you and Taeyeon still texted.”

“Silly Sooyoung. Don’t concern yourself with upperclassmen’s interactions, you youngster. Just get re-inspired by our visit to the place of your young and naïve dreams and then go out and get that dream job. Although now that you mention it, Taeng hasn’t talked to me in awhile.”

“Hey, don’t give me that glare. I had a lot on my mind recently. But you know what? This, right here, would make a great story, don’t you think? Nine random strangers meeting at a high school in the middle of Seoul on a Friday night in August. There’s something magical about that, isn’t there?”

“What’s magical is that now we have enough for a real party. Pardon me, ladies—the DJ’s gonna put it back on!”

Hyoyeon hit “play” on the nearby boom box and turned the volume all the way up. The rest of the girls immediately whooped and hollered, jumping around and cheering as Yuri danced Kyungsan into the middle of their impromptu circle. Yoona couldn’t help grinning as she moved along to the beat, watching Hyoyeon pop and lock like there was no tomorrow. Then she heard someone on her right say something, so she turned and found herself facing Taeyeon. “Sorry, unnie, what’d you say?”

“Huh?” Taeyeon turned to look her in the eye, and then burst into a wide smile. “Oh, I was just telling myself that this is a moment above all moments, you know? So many just pass us by each day, and we have no reason to remember them. Even the ones that are a bit more eventful fade as the years go by. But this moment? These moments right here? I’m not kidding when I say that they’re gonna stick around in our memories for a long, long time, as fresh as they are right now.”

“Plus,” Jessica added from Taeyeon’s right, “If all else fails, I think we can all agree that a helicopter is pretty hard to forget.”

But Yoona didn’t think that “all else” would fail, because even as she was in a room with these seven other strangers, there was something in the atmosphere that made her think that she and Yuri hadn’t just stumbled upon some random group of people.

Maybe it was feeling the notes of the track thud against her eardrums or the wind from Sunny fist pumping beside her. Maybe it was seeing Yuri and Hyoyeon engaged in an intense dance off with Kyungsan as referee, or Tiffany attempting to challenge Sooyoung to a much milder, goofier version of the same. Maybe it was hearing Seohyun’s laugh ring bright and clear above the chaos; but whatever the reason, she also heard herself say, “I think you’re absolutely right, Taeyeon-unnie.”

“Of course I am,” Taeyeon scoffed, but there was something serious and reverent in her tone as she continued. “Right now, in the future, or forever—it doesn’t matter; these moments will always be the same.”